From Chris Biewer [ 21/04/2006 ].
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Manfred Stohl celebrates his 100th WRC start in the Rally Argentina next week. It also is his 25th start in a WRCar at world level. Other drivers may have got further after 100 WRC starts (i.e. Loeb has his 76th start, tho he is extreme), but Manfred’s career has been unusual. Manfred Stohl’s dad is Rudi Stohl. The Stohl family is not super rich, as all those WRC starts may suggest. But they had a good taste for adventure. When Rudi Stohl started his career, budget was so slim that he had to make cuts somewhere. He choose to do events as Safari, Argentina, 1000 Lakes, even if it was in a Lada! Later Rudi got help from Audi and he stayed loyal to Audi many years beyond Audi’s interest in rallying!
And that lead’s us to why Manfred Stohl had a most unusual car for his WRC debut: daddy’s old Audi 90 Quattro in the Bandama Rallye 1992 – but not the common group A 90 Quattro like Mikael Ericsson had, the roundy, early 1990s model! In 2000 Manfred Stohl became groupN world champion, however a 2001 season in the JWRC was an emberassment because of that series and its cars little attraction, reliability and performance. Since then Manfred has competed in a most amazing selection of WRCars: Corolla, Hyundai, Focus, 206, 307, Xsara, it would be easier to name which models he didn’t try yet!
His first WRCar entry was in Monte Carlo 2002 in a rented Grifone Toyota Corolla WRC, he finished 16th. Then, in the same year, Manfred found more OMV sponsorship (already his partners since daddy’s Audi) to purchase ex-works Ford Focus WRC “X3 FMC”. He concentrated on Austrian championship events, while his 2 WRC starts (Cyprus and GB 2002) were troubled. Manfred then raised many eyebrows when he next got the chance to try Peugeot Austria’s 206 WRC (206 MWP 75, about the oldest 206 WRCar you could find) in NZ 2003, where Manfred posted absolute top level times and crashed out on day 2 from 7th place (in 2002 competition was stronger than now, 7th in 2002 is like 2nd in 2006). This was enough to hand Manfred Stohl his first, and so far only full works drive: He started as Hyundai’s #3 driver. But the Hyundai was not a good car and the deal ended prematurely. Manfred finished both his starts for Hyundai, tho: 11th in Acropolis 03 and 18th in Deutschland 03. Once again he rectified it all in the Austrian 206: 7th in GB 2003 in only his 7th start in a WRCar at WRC level and in an event with about the most amazing entry field of recent history. 2004 saw Manfred come 6th in Acropolis and 8th in GB, both times again in the old, (t)rusty 206 MWP 75. In 2005 he had a major season in the OMV sponsored and Kronos run Citroën Xsara T4, including his best WRC result to date: 2nd in Cyprus, however an event in which only 1 works car stayed out of trouble. 2006 is Manfred Stohl’s first full season in a WRCar. This year he is in a Peugeot 307 WRC and he had a podium finish in the only gravel event to date. Since 10 of the remaining 11 WRC events this season are gravel, maybe a good omen?